New book tells overlooked tale of U.S. icebreaker Manhattan
(J. Pennelope Goforth/Alaska Dispatch, 1 April 2012) -- Ask any Alaskan if they have heard of the Manhattan and you’re likely to get a blank stare. Granted, it was more than 40 years ago -- but the voyage of the leviathan oil tanker Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969 launched the American rush to Arctic resources. Now, a new book by Ross Coen, Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage, tells the story of the ship. As the biography of an extraordinary vessel, the basic story is riveting enough: massive ship built as a fluke gains worldwide attention and becomes famous. Coen takes it further, placing the Manhattan at the nexus of global oil industry competitiveness and then weaving in the age-old question of who has the right of passage over the seas. Even before her bow crushed any ice, she spun the compass on conventional ways of thinking about the technology of moving millions of barrels of crude oil while accommodating nascent ideas of environmental protection. On the political intrigue front, Coen shows how the course of the ship’s trip through the waters of the Canadian Archipelago challenged the world’s notions of the sovereignty of the fabled Northwest Passage itself. These issues still persist today. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay not long before the Manhattan's journey cranked up the engines of the oil industry as they puzzled out how to get millions of barrels of crude oil from the frozen north to thirsty world markets. In a completely breathtaking move, Humble Oil & Refining Co. grabbed the helm, launching the Arctic Tanker Test. Their intent was to test a model of safely and profitably shipping oil through the ice fields, a feat no other industry rival had attempted. They boldly re-forged an obscure giant cargo ship into a mammoth ice-breaking oil tanker. Coen explains this marvel of modern science with exacting detail describing hull sensors, TV cameras and a wealth of technological breakthroughs.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:51:38 PM. Permalink
Tagged: Alaska, April12, Books and publications, Circumpolar History, Circumpolar News